Jerry Falwell blames America for 911

JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning.

And with biological warfare available to these monsters - the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats - what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact - God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.

PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population.

JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, yes.

JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked.

And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.

JERRY FALWELL: Pat, did you notice yesterday the ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, People For the American Way, NOW, etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang "God Bless America" and said "let the ACLU be hanged"?

In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time - calling upon God.

PAT ROBERTSON: Amen

Preaching With a Vengeance Pat Robertson's Fierce Rhetoric May Have Diminished His Political Clout

What part of "I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'" isn't blaming fellow Americans for the tragedy?

In addition to being just plain crazy, what's so wrong about what Falwell and Robertson said?

1. They put Americans at risk. America is at war. Countless families have lost friends and loved ones, and most everyone else lived through days of hell wondering if the next plane was heading for them and their children.

When emotions are at their highest, imagine the impact of religious leaders proclaiming to millions that the reason we're now fighting for our lives is all because of those nasty homosexuals, feminists, and ACLU members.

Let's face it folks, if any of us could find the guys responsible for this crime, we'd personally pulverize them. Now that Falwell and Robertson have identified the culprits, it's not that far-fetched to worry that one of their followers might take it into his own hands to exact divine justice.

2. They dishonor the dead. Falwell's and Robertson's comments smack of political opportunism. It almost appears they saw disaster as a great opportunity to take a major swipe at their political enemies. The audacity of using the deaths of thousands of Americans for personal gain is chilling.

3. They empower our enemies. Osama bin Laden must be smiling somewhere in the desert of Afghanistan, knowing that it only took 48 hours for America's fundamentalist leaders to join his crusade of using religious-based prejudice to dehumanize and divide a nation.

In a disturbing coincidence, bin Laden's own words this past week eerily echo Robertson's and Falwell's accusations of divine retribution against America. "Bin Laden, speaking through aides, this week denied involvement in the carnage, but described it as 'punishment from almighty Allah,' " Reuters reported.

4. They demean the religious beliefs of others. For a long time now, the religious right has had a strategy of accusing anyone who disagrees with them of being anti-God, as though far-right fundamentalists were the only true voice of divine provenance.

Falwell's echoed this strategy Thursday night when he referred to his political opponents as "Christ-haters." Interestingly, another fundamentalist takes the same tactic - the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Reuters reported this weekend that Taliban leaders are trying to spin American antagonism towards them as opposition to their faith. "You should know that this is not only the issue of Osama, it is opposition to Islam," the Supreme leader of the Taliban said in a radio broadcast on Friday.

And bin Laden himself refers to America as a country of "pagans," the same word Falwell used to describe one of the classes of Americans he believes angered God.

5. They defame God. I don't care what religion you are, to claim that God somehow got mad and decided to abet the wiping out of 5,000 people is blasphemous, defamatory, makes a mockery of Christianity, and only serves to further the misconception that people of faith are hateful wackos. The Bishop of Washington, Jane Holmes Dixon, put it best:

"Christians everywhere - and all people of faith - can only be appalled by the exchange yesterday between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

To even think, much less utter and then subsequently confirm, a belief that Tuesday's horror in any way reflects God's will is absolutely inconsistent with Christian theology.

To lay blame for provoking God's anger on whole groups or classes of Americans with whom they disagree is shameful, as are those similar statements by others that seek to demonize all Arabs or Muslims.

There is much that we do not yet know about how this violence was wrought, but this horror absolutely did not come from God.

At a time when Americans are united in their horror, their mourning, and their resolve to support our nation's leaders and the heroic rescue workers, it is beyond shameful to seek to divide us by alleging that some of us are culpable because we hold beliefs different from those of Robertson and Falwell.

Were the circumstances not so grave, it would almost be ironic that some of those singled out are patriotic defenders of some of our most cherished individual and corporate freedoms."

But perhaps the saddest spectacle of all was the refusal by Falwell or Robertson to even acknowledge that they had done wrong. As men of the cloth, one would have hoped that they of all people would have the conviction to confront their own demons and confess their own sins.

But instead of following their own oft-given advice, to repent and seek forgiveness, they seemed to prefer a path of bearing false witness, denying the clear meaning of the very words they uttered only hours before.

In the end, Falwell and Robertson may still pay a high price for their bigotry. The Walt Disney company is reportedly in negotiations to buy the Fox Family Channel, a cable channel that is contractually obligated to carry "The 700 Club," the same Robertson-run TV show where Falwell lost it last Thursday.

Pressure is building on Disney chairman and CEO Michael Eisner to scotch the deal, at least as it involves Robertson's too-hot-to-handle show.

Mickey Mouse may yet teach Robertson and Falwell that hate is not a "Fox Family" value.

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